Friday, March 19, 2010

Robert Fletcher on Cory Doctorow

There's a nice piece on Cory Doctorow by Robert Fletcher in the current issue of Science Fiction Studies (SFS).  It surprised me a little to find it there, since Doctorow is not exactly the sf canon, yet, as I have blogged about here, there is really no better example of the current "structure of feeling" than Doctorow--he's right there, blogging constantly, writing for any magazine that will have him, putting a creative commons license on everything but insisting on the profitability of the whole enterprise.  In short, it would be hard to find a literary figure who does a better job exploring the tensions and contradictions of the neo-liberal, especially when it comes down to the fluidity of information, the role of the state, the constitution of the individual and, in general, the contradictions of a monolithic yet simultaneously superannuated capitalist system.  It's that aspect of his fiction that I find interesting, even when it doesn't quite hold together: the accelerated heteroglossia of a networked era. As Fletcher (81) writes, "Like Dickens's competing roles as artist, advocate, and entrepreneur tell us something about his novels' relations to changing modes of cultural production and to the social organization they entail."  And as Doctorow continues to write past the crash into the depths of our information-saturated, Orwellian state, we'll see more in his work that chronicles the contradictions of our times.  One of the best parts about what Fletcher identifies as Doctorow's "networked" identity is the perspective it gives us onto the messiness of figuring things out in the global present.  Drawing on the diverse discourses around him to form occasionally refractory assemblages of ideas, and then working those ideas back and forth over the course of several essays, novels and short stories is not only symptom but also synecdoche of the neoliberal present.